School Board To Consider New Calendar At Nov. 5th Meeting

School Board To Consider New Calendar At Nov. 5th Meeting

School Board To Consider New Calendar At Nov. 5th Meeting Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 30 October 2019 00:41

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY  - The New Hanover County School Board will consider a new proposed calendar at their upcoming November 5th, meeting. Under the proposal students would start school earlier in August and end the school year in May rather than June.

For the current year, school started on August 27th and the last day of school in 2020 will be June 11th. Under the new proposal, students will start the 2020-2021 year on August 10th, 2020 with the last day of the school year being May 27th, 2021.

While opinions on the proposal are mixed with parents divided on the new calendar, the Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the School Board earlier this month.

Greg Reynolds - President Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce - wrote to Mr. Nelson Beaulieu with the New Hanover County Board of Education on October 22, 2019 stating, "The Chamber of Commerce is strongly opposed to altering the school calendar for reasons that your committee may have not considered. Twelve years ago, in 2007, the New Hanover County TDA Board of Directors (as well as the Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce and many others) adopted a Resolution to support the 2004 Save Our Summers legislation. In the years since passing the resolution, protecting North Carolina's existing school calendar legislation has remained a top priority for the PICC Board of Directors."

Reynolds explained, "We hope you will consider the following points in further discussions. The 2004 Save Our Summers legislation benefits local tourism, county citizens and our local schools."

He explained, "The current summer calendar law has strengthened tourism in New Hanover County. August is currently our third biggest month for Room Occupancy Tax collections; July holds the number 1 spot and June weighs in as number 2, with August a close third. Prior to passing Save Our Summers legislation, August trailed May.  Starting school at the end of August extended our vacation season and literally saved our summers. In August 2019, Room Occupancy Tax Collections in New Hanover County totaled $1,993,144.Saving our Summers is about more than just increasing Room Occupancy Tax. It's also about increasing state and local sales taxes, part of which goes to fund public schools in our county."

Reynolds explained that, "North Carolina's current school calendar law sets the standard for counties across the state. While visitors to our destination typically live outside the county, it is our concern that if New Hanover County (an established travel destination) attempts to change its school calendar, that state legislators might interpret that as a signal to appeal the statewide law. Over 65% of our visitors come from within the state of North Carolina and changing the school start date in our in-state feeder markets would greatly impact our county."

He explained, "Altering the existing school calendar would severely reduce tourism revenues and sales taxes during the summer months."

After that legislation was passed years ago, the County's Room Occupancy Tax increased in August 2005 by 22.05% above the prior year and an additional 4.83% for August 2006.

He explained that indicated, "The Save Our Summers legislation, enacted in 2004, is a contributing factor to an increase in tourism for the month of August. During fiscal year July 2018 through June 2019, countywide Room Occupancy Tax Collections set a new ROT record for the eighth consecutive year, with over $15.58 million in collections. State tax revenue generated in New Hanover County totaled $29.54 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income. About $24.73 million in local taxes were generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses. We are of the belief that changing the school calendar would risk losing a significant portion of this revenue."

Short term accommodations such as hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts  must pay a room occupancy tax. Those taxes go to fund beach nourishment projects as well as tourism related expenditures and promotion. For example, the Room Occupancy Tax Rate for Kure Beach is 6% and the combined State and County Sales Tax Rate is 7% for a total of 13% on a vacationer's bill. For example, a portion of the ROT goes toward funding beach nourishment projects which in turn helps maintain wide beaches for both locals and tourists to enjoy. But not just for the recreational aspect. More importantly, to maintain a buffer from the power of the Atlantic Ocean which can ultimately threaten oceanfront property values of both residential and commercial ventures such as hotels, motels and vacation rental homes.

Reynolds explained, "The ROT is also used to fund a portion of the annual budget for the local municipal life guard programs to protect lives of people who enjoy the beach. It's an added level of safety for both locals and visitors. There is an economic revenue generating engine built into the ROT tax legislation."

He explained, "A portion of the revenues generated by the ROT are used to promote the Town as a tourism destination and another portion is used to cover tourism related expenditures like festivals and other events that put more heads on beds in rental accommodations. That part of the legislation serves to fund activities that help increase the number of people that visit the area and in turn increases ROT revenues. Beyond rooms, these same visitors pay sales taxes on purchases in shops, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, attractions, goods and services throughout the county."

Reynolds added, "According to a study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, domestic visitors to and within New Hanover County spent a record $612.92 million in 2018, an increase of 6% from 2017. In 2018, travel-generated state and local tax revenues saved each New Hanover County resident an estimated $228.31. Altering the existing legislation would increase the tax burden to New Hanover County Citizens."

Reynolds said the position of the Chamber and it's Board members is simple, "Maintaining the school calendar also protects jobs and families. The travel and tourism industry directly employs more than 6,470 people in New Hanover County. Many students who attend New Hanover County Schools live in households whose parents are employed in the tourism and hospitality industries."

He explained, "Altering the school calendar also impacts our workforce, jeopardizing jobs and incomes of those who are employed by seasonal businesses, many of whom are university, community college and high school students who are seasonally employed by the hospitality industry. For the above-stated reasons, the Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce supports North Carolina's existing school start legislation and is strongly opposed to any efforts that are designed to alter the existing legislation."

He explained, "The Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce urges the New Hanover County Board of Education to reconsider and oppose any and all changes to the existing school start legislation."

Dr. LaChawn Smith, Deputy Superintendent explained on October 21st, "Prior to 2004, there were no restrictions on start and end dates for school calendars. This allowed for districts to create calendars that best met the needs of students and families. We know that changing what we have done for the last 15 years represents major change for some. We are confident that our community that supports our students will recognize that this represents an opportunity to do what is best for our students."

Smith listed some pros and cons of the proposal:

Pros
• December high school graduates will be able to start college in January.
• Provides teacher training days during the semester without having to use substitutes to cover classes.
• Allows for alignment with the community college and university calendars to promote and support dual enrollment. 
• Currently, there is a 3-week misalignment with high school students, who are taking community college courses. This creates disadvantages for them in their high school classes.
• Allowing for more students to take dual enrollment courses helps to reduce college debt and makes it more likely that they will graduate on-time or early. Many students would be able to enter college with college credit and possible sophomore status.
• Allows for the inclusion of an intersession for all students in January prior to the beginning of the second semester, which offers the following benefits:
• Supports grade recovery instead of credit recovery.
• Supports student intervention prior to the end of the school year.
• Provides flexibility for inclement weather make up days.
• The summer break for students will begin prior to Memorial Day Holiday. Students who work during the summer would be able to begin summer jobs at the end of May.
• Allows for families with students across several grade spans to share the same calendar.
• Strong support of teachers who believe this represents a better instructional model for students. By ending the semester in January - currently after the winter holiday break, exams are “hanging over students,” which creates unnecessary stress during the holidays. The proposed calendar allows for students to complete exams prior to the winter holiday break, which would enable students to spend their break time focusing on family, interests and renewal.
• Allows for additional flexibility to create natural breaks rather than forced breaks due to current calendar limitations.
• In New Hanover County, August is only the third busiest month for tourism.  July is the first and June places second. The proposed calendar will allow for students to be fully available for work during  all of June and July, which is when the tourism industry is busier than at the end of August.
 
Cons
• Impact to tourism. Unsure of the impact, but students would be available to begin summer jobs sooner.
• Impact to 10-month employees spreading current salary over 12-month period rather than 10-month period. Many employees already do this, but for some employees, this would be a significant change; however, in the month of July, despite only working one calendar day, employees would receive a full month's salary. Majority of teachers currently already disperse their salary across 12 months. Only about 40% of non-certified staff do this.

The meeting will be held 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM at 1805 S. 13th St, Wilmington, NC on November 5th. To learn more, visit https://www.nhcs.net/about-us/calendar

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